Clinical audits monitor the use of particular interventions, or the care received by patients, against agreed standards. Any departures from “best practice” can then be examined, and causes can be determined and acted upon. The Ministry of Health (MOH), Jamaica, has recently published standards of care for hypertension. The medical records of a convenience sample of 125 hypertensive patients being managed by five current family medicine residents in their respective primary care practices were audited.
Initial results showed limited adherence to the MOH recommended hypertension management guidelines. The same practices were re-audited after an interval of six months, during which time the physicians were sensitized to the results of the preliminary audit. Marked improvements were noted in the second audit. Assessment for co-risk factors for hypertension-related diseases improved: nutritional advice (33% to 74%), smoking and alcohol intake history (40% to 65%) and history taking of physical activity (30% to 47%). Assessment for target organ damage also improved: fundoscopy done (11% to 54%), foot examination done (30% to 58%) and yearly electrolytes done (28% to 62%). There are clear gaps between current practice and standards that exist internationally and locally for management of hypertension. The MOH needs to disseminate and educate general practitioners about the standards of care guidelines.